October 11, 2021

Karen D. Dunning

Karen Dianne Dunning, 64, went to her Sanctuary peacefully on October 1, 2021, surrounded by family and friends at her home on Mercer Island, WA.  Karen seized life boldly through a myriad of life experiences as an entrepreneur, actress, musician, singer, songwriter, composer, author, philanthropist, and international traveler.

Karen was born in Everett, WA to Dorothy and Earl Dunning and raised in Kearney and Lincoln, NE. She graduated from Lincoln East High School and earned a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Finance from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.  She began her professional career as a Systems Engineer and Marketing Representative at IBM, specializing in the banking industry. After IBM, she successfully launched, owned, and operated three multi-million-dollar businesses in Lincoln, NE. She was a pioneer in the computer presentation equipment business and her companies were included in Inc. Magazine’s “500 Fastest Growing Privately Owned Businesses.” Karen was named “Nebraska Entrepreneur of the Year” in 1996, was invited to attend the White House Summit (to develop US business strategy for the White House) and was a member of Nebraska Governor Ben Nelson’s CEO Roundtable.  She participated in trade missions to Japan, Hong Kong, and China, and served as a Nebraska Diplomat member for over 20 years.

Karen was particularly passionate about mentoring women and girls in entrepreneurship.  She established an endowment, The Karen Dunning Fund for Women’s Studies, which provides scholarships for students, at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where she was an active alumna, member of the Chancellor’s Club, and frequent speaker at entrepreneurial conferences.  In addition, she served as a Professor of Entrepreneurship at American University in Yola, Nigeria.

At age 40, she sold her company (Business Media, Inc.) and moved to the west coast to pursue her love of music.  She earned an Associate of Arts in Music at the College of Marin, CA, and was a singer, songwriter, and composer, played piano and guitar, and performed at various venues.  She joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and acted and sang in many movies, TV shows, and on stage.

In addition to her professional and philanthropic work, Karen was politically active, advocating for causes that were important to her and singing for charity and political events. She combined her love of music and her advocacy efforts to found and sponsor an international Peace Song contest to encourage songwriters to write lyrics to promote world peace.

To empower women, Karen shared her personal and professional journey in her recently published memoir, “Sparkly and Strong”. More may be learned at:

Karen was affiliated with many organizations including: National Association of Women Business Owners, Planned Parenthood, the Lincoln Lancaster County Commission on the Status of Women,  Nova Business & Professional Women, YWCA, United Way, Nashville Songwriter’s Association International (NSAI), SAG-AFTRA, Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Diplomats, Rotary Club (Mercer Island, WA and Lincoln, NE), Chambers of Commerce (Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, Lincoln, NE), Lincoln Independent Business Association, and Pi Beta Phi Alumni Club.

Karen is survived by her sister Linda, brothers Steven and David, nieces Joy, Allison and Billie Jo, nephews Jona and David, great niece Mila, and great nephews Luca, Keda, and Charlie.

A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held on October 23, 2021, at 2:00 pm at Mercer Island United Methodist Church, 7070 SE 24th Street, Mercer Island, WA.

A second memorial service will be held on November 13, 2021 at 1:30 P.M. at Wyuka Funeral Home & Cemetery, 3600 O Street, Lincoln, NE.  To watch the service online click HERE.

Memorials may be made in Karen’s honor to the Seattle Humane Society at or the Karen Dunning Fund for Women’s Studies c/o the University of Nebraska Foundation, 1010 Lincoln Mall Suite 300 Lincoln, NE 68508


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *